Firstly thank you for taking the time out your existence to come and read what are my personal choices of my favourite films from the last decade. I hope you’ve been inspired to sample something from the list and I love to know what you thought of them even if you didn’t like it. It is a personal list so you can only use your own reaction as a measure. Since starting it (I first starting toying with the idea at the beginning of the year) I’ve seen at least ten, possibly more, films that would get a place in this list, some of them even threatening the top twenty. I will catch up and post those that missed at a later date. Also I’d forgotten a couple as well :) Now down to the top five popcorn pickers and each one of these is a challenging watch, all for different reasons, however they are all films which reward a first viewing and more. So go, sample a few from the list because I guarantee that at least one of the top ten will blow your socks off.
5. Primer (2004) Dir. Shane Carruth
Engineers Abe and Aaron (played by debut director Carruth) work with colleagues outside of their normal job, making additional money to fund more creative personal scientific projects. One late evening they invent a machine which does something no other does. What exactly have they created? Have they stumbled upon something that really could be the greatest scientific discovery ever made and where will it take them? Primer is first rate science-fiction (which tends more towards philosophy than lasers) taking a realistic approach to how technological developments happen and then some. It is a dense, dialogue-driven story which requires several viewings and uses this idea to dive headlong into the moral dilemmas of friendship, ethics, power and trust unlike anything else. A science fiction film which does more than give the human story equal billing to the genre’s staple ideas of rationalism/logic and all made for just $7,000. Low budget independent cinema at its finest.
Like this? Try these: Peggy Sue Got Married (1986), Old Joy (2006), Nashville (1975)
4. Requiem For A Dream (2000) Dir. Darren Aronofsky
In many ways this was The Shawshank Redemption for the 00s. Given decent reviews yet didn’t explode at the box office and rarely registered on top ten lists either for the year of its release or the decade. Despite this the film found support amongst cinema fans. Like Darabont’s adaptation, which tapped into a collective consciousness which wanted change and to break free from Thatcherism/Reaganomics, Aronofsky’s adaptation found favour in a post-9/11 society which accepted that the dream of corporate salvation was as great a nightmare as Ellen Burstyn’s struggle with image. A stylistic whirlwind, it set the tone for a return to the questioning of American values and had the most adrenalin-pumped heartbeat of a score, courtesy of ex-Grebo guru, Clint Mansell. It was full-on, uncompromising, intense, unflinching and horrifying, going beyond anything the multiplex would dare inject us with.
Like this? Try these: Drugstore Cowboy (1989), Sid and Nancy (1986), Down to the Bone (2004)
3. Old Joy (2006) Dir.Kelly Reichardt
Upon watching Old Joy it passed me by and like a memory itself faded softly without ever going away. It lingered or its feeling did. I could hardly recall what it was that I liked. Was it its minimalism that allowed me to drift in and out of the film? Yo La Tengo’s melancholy score or the comfort of its Gen-X dialogue? I couldn’t’ remember yet there it sat in my mind like one of the elongated sounds of its music. It didn’t bowl me over until I went back to it again and I needed to go back to it because there was something unique about its mood of sedation that was calling me. I had absorbed it on a much deeper level than I initially thought. On the surface Reichardt’s road movie is a lyrical and plaintive meditation on the friendship between its two reunited characters set against the backdrop of gorgeous Oregon. Again we’re into film makers with whom you must decipher the psychology of the characters, their relationship and history for yourself. In a closer analysis this story of friends who have followed different paths unfolds gently, like a walk in the hills, until you’ve embraced its atmosphere. The minimalism that allows you to drift opens up the film to your interpretation and gradually its personal cinema grows into the political, offering insight into change, the loss of liberalism, left-wing infighting, decay, rejection, and pragmatism against idealism. Intimate, revealing and soul-searching. Its draw will never fade.
Like this? Try these: Wendy and Lucy (2008), Meek’s Cutoff (2010), My Summer of Love (2004)
2. In the Mood for Love (2000) Dir. Wong Kar-Wai
In the Mood for Love is a film which I have recommended to countless others and all have adored it. A reserved story of love wrapped in a graceful cinematic display that is the equal of any romance history can offer. As tight, humid and claustrophobic as Hong Kong itself it is rightfully lauded for its exceptional mis en scene and has performances to match. When we first meet our characters it is as ambivalent as everyday occurence and slowly we are led from this into a growing emotional complexity of love. Like Lost In Translation it never disappears and when I am drawn back to it and its decade-best score I can’t help but fall in love with it even more. Like a tiny flower amidst its city it does not sing for our attention, instead preferring to let us breath in its yearning for life and beauty.
Like this? Try these: 2046 (2004), The Remains Of The Day (1993), Great Expectations (1946)
1. Syndromes And A Century (2006) Dir. Apichatpong Weerasethakul
As I’ve started to write my thoughts on these final three films it has become easy to see why they now sit at the top of three. Each film relies strongly on the building up of the connection between it and you. Not the building up of connection for some shocking reveal, just simply to let you float down into its world and let it wash all over you. It doesn’t matter how much you let sink in at first because you will be back for more. Not to see how they planned it all out but to re-experience cinema as art in the way that no other medium can. Weerasethakul won the Palme D’or in 2010 to go with other Cannes awards for his earlier works, Tropical Maladay and Blissfully Yours, however it is Syndromes and a Century which I love the most. Selected by the Toronto International Film Festival as its film of the decade it is a presentation of Thailand which goes beyond national boundaries. A film without a story, it flows like a dream with extraordinary imagery and meaning guiding you through so many concepts, ideas and thoughts that you can’t help but lose yourself in it. To even hint at what the film constructs in your mind is to disempower you from discovering its transcendence for yourself.
Like this? Try these: Tropical Malady (2004), Uncle Boomee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (2010), The World (2004)